Everyone knew that widening the Raleigh Beltline highway would raise the noise level-that's why sound barrier walls were planned for residential areas affected by the project. Many who saw the brick wall under construction assumed that the area's affluent residents had used political clout to have a more attractive, more expensive wall built at taxpayer expense. The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) moved quickly to reassure concerned taxpayers that, in fact, the brick was selected as a more economical alternative to the precast concrete sound barrier originally specified. VALUE ENGINEERING The original contract, for about 106,000 square feet of precast concrete barrier walls, already had been awarded based on a low bid of $15.22 per square foot. David Mason, representing a local brick manufacturer, was convinced that a brick wall could be constructed for less. BRICK ALTERNATIVES A design was developed featuring reinforced brick piers, 10 feet o.c., with single-wythe walls of utility brick (nominal 4x4x12 inches) between them. All bed joints would contain ladder-type wire reinforcement. The wall would be capped by a sloped rowlock course of closure brick (nominal 4x4x8 inches) laid over continuous PVC flashing. BRICK'S COST BENEFIT The site-built wall option worked out to $15.00 per square foot, or 22 cents less than the bid for precast. This difference alone would have saved about $34,000 in construction costs. But some cost benefits were less obvious. The precast design allowed height changes in minimum increments of 2 feet, while the brick wall's height can vary in increments of 4 inches, the height of one course of utility brick. This difference allowed a reduction in the total square footage of the wall that saved another $150,000 in construction cost.